“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. I’m an amateur gardener, and I find gardening a very relaxing activity, especially during these days when I am locked down and locked in on my own. Not only does it give me something to do it also offers some exercise. But that isn’t what I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about the art of gardening. Growing plants to be fruitful or flowerful involves more than just sticking a seed in the soil and watching it grow. There is a lot of time and effort — and care — involved right from the time of planting the seed. You need the right soil, the right amount of water, the right amount of heat to ensure your seed germinates and grows into a plant. And as it is growing, you need to ensure it gets enough sunlight, you need to protect it from insects, fungus, the vagaries of nature — especially frost in cold countries — so many things. Then there is the maintenance that is required. You need to fertilize it, prune it, repot it - again, so many things. If you see a pretty garden, it didn’t just happen. It took a lot of time and effort. Now, why this lesson in gardening? Because Jesus says his Father is the gardener. And the image of our Father tending to us with so much of love and care is such a wonderful one. He nurtures. He nourishes. He protects. He grows. Are you getting the picture? I feel so safe in his hands. And I would like you to feel safe too. But there’s something else a gardener does. He prunes the plants in his care. Pruning is when you selectively remove branches from a tree. The idea is to remove unwanted branches, improve the tree's structure, and direct new, healthy growth. And what is true for plants is true for us. If we are to be what the Father created us to be, then he has to remove whatever is unnecessary in our lives, or detrimental to our growth, and shape us properly. No? And this can be painful. Did I tell you pruning involves a pair of shears? The hardships we go through is God’s way of pruning us. I have realized that I have never really grown when things are going smoothly in my life; it is only when I have faced difficulties that I have seen real growth. This is why Scripture tells us: “Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? He disciplined us for a little while as he thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (see Hebrews 12:7-11). Okay, we mixed metaphors there, but you get the point, yes? These may not seem like the best of times, but believe that God will make good out of it. So, cheer up! And say thank you to the gardener.